Why indeed? Rep. Adam Schiff, now the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, accused predecessor Devin Nunes of misconduct for having ex parte meetings with Trump administration officials during the initial probe into Russia and the collusion hypothesis. Nunes temporarily recused himself from the probe as a result.
This morning, however, The Hill’s John Solomon reports that Schiff and Fusion GPS chief Glenn Simpson somehow ended up at the same Aspen symposium during the investigation. Solomon has pictures that show the two together as well (via Jeff Dunetz):
They show Schiff meeting at the event with Fusion GPS Founder Glenn Simpson, one of the key and most controversial figures in the Russia collusion scandal. Both men insisted to me through spokesmen that they met only briefly last July.
At the time of the encounter, Simpson was an important witness in the House Intelligence Committee probe who had given sworn testimony about alleged, but still unproven, collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. …
“In the summer of 2018, Mr. Simpson attended a media-sponsored social event where he exchanged small talk with Rep. Schiff and many other people who were in attendance,” Fusion GPS said in a statement to me. “The conversation between the two was brief and did not cover anything substantive. There has been no subsequent contact between Mr. Simpson and Rep. Schiff.”
The congressman’s response was even more vague: “The chairman did not have any pre-planned meeting with Glenn Simpson, and any conversation with him at the Aspen conference would have been brief and social in nature,” Schiff spokesman Patrick Boland said.
That triggered a little slam-dunking from President Trump a short while ago:
“Was testifying” is not entirely accurate. Simpson had already testified a few months earlier; the House Intelligence Committee had released the testimony publicly in January 2018. The committee could still have called Simpson back for more testimony, especially after Bruce Ohr’s later testimony contradicted some of Simpson’s assertions, as Solomon points out.
Solomon also notes that contact between HIC members and witnesses aren’t strictly against HIC rules either. That, however, points to the double standard applied to Nunes. If having any kind of ex parte discussion with potential witnesses is disqualifying, then Schiff should follow Nunes’ example and recuse himself. That’s even more the case given that Schiff apparently never mentioned his “social” contact with Simpson in Aspen to the committee, not even to fellow Democrats, before Solomon’s article popped up this morning.
And just how did that happen, anyway? Isn’t it a bit curious that Schiff and Simpson ended up at the same event in Colorado in the middle of Schiff’s re-election campaign? Solomon calls it a “Forrest Gump” event, and Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX) thinks it’s fishy at best:
Simpson has become a Gump-like character who keeps showing up in so many different places in the Russia scandal: He’s the owner of the company that was paid by Clinton for the Steele dossier, the guy who hired Steele to create the dossier, the one who met with Ohr at the Justice Department, who pitched reporters writing Trump dirt at the end of the campaign and who met with the Russian woman and an American lobbyist at the heart of the infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting.
And then, he shows up with Schiff in Aspen.
“It’s interesting that Simpson is at the heart of the dossier and the dossier played a mighty role in not only going after Carter Page but in much of Adam’s and Eric Swalwell’s [D-Calif.] quest to find collusion, that [Schiff] would in fact in that exact same conversation, or time frame, be in conversation or appear to be in conversation with the guy who’s principally responsible for the dossier,” Conaway said.
This will certainly make for interesting conversation around the HIC table … now that it’s turned on Schiff.